Saturday, September 17, 2011

Déjà vu all over again

Blackburn 4-3 Arsenal


Last time I wrote about our team was after the Swansea win. We were not utterly convincing in that match but we were solid enough to grind out a decent result. That conclusion was partially vindicated when we were able to come back with a point from our European adventure away at Borussia Dortmund. It appeared that Arsenal was finally on the rise after a disappointing start to the season on the back of an equally disappointing summer. But in the aftermath of our calamitous defeat at Ewood Park, one is forced to re-analyse the Champions League game and accept that we're just plain lucky in that fixture. We were spared the blushes by some poor finishing from the current Bundesliga champion. Yesterday we notched it up a level and displayed a shambolic defensive performance.

Blackburn has already been labelled relegation fodder by the English media and for a change, they're spot on. Before the match, Blackburn had been sitting right at the bottom of the league table with just one point from their game against Fulham. Their manager, Steve Kean was facing the wrath of the fans and the players for not doing enough to build the team for the season and the resulting poor results. To give the whole situation an ironic backdrop, there were even protests against him before the game. I'm quite sure that Steve Kean would have already cleared his desk because a defeat against Arsenal was a sure eventuality. Similarly, Arsenal too would have fancied their chances against an opposition whose back was against the wall. But somehow we managed to screw it up and handed Steve Kean a lifeline.

We had Gervinho and Arshavin starting for us. The Russian has gradually started to look like the player we had signed 3 years back. There was Robin who had scored 8 goals in 10 games against Blackburn, a thorn in their side. Ramsey and Artea were in the midfield backed up by Song. It was very much a full strength frontline for us. As we always play, we bossed the possession, created many chances. Gervinho opened his account for Arsenal and so did Arteta. But then we wasted a lot many chances too. Gervinho was at fault for a blatant non-goal when he was too selfish to lay the ball for Van Persie. But still there were no signs in the first half of the upcoming doom. Blackburn started the second half brighter than us and we buckled under minimal pressure. Koscielny and Song who had an amazing game against Dortmund might want to forget their errors yesterday. Both of them gave the ball cheaply far too many times. One could argue that the balance was disturbed because of Andre Santos who was making his debut. I'm very much with that argument but then he alone didn't cost us the game. Yes he played Yakubu onside for his first goal and then created a 50-50 situation with his positioning for Yak's second but it was a collective capitulation at the back which led to the result. We were frivolous and abysmal in our defending.

Arsene argued in his press conference later that the team is missing the defensive confidence after the Old Trafford defeat but I beg to differ. We made basic defensive errors. The own goal which came off Song from Blackburn's corner, we were zonal defending! What was that all about, I thought that it went out of the league with Rafa Benitez. And then in the leadup of the second goal, Djourou commited himself on the byline when there was no need of it. Our other players were tracking back and Djourou should have just stuck himself to the Blackburn runner. The performance will not help Santos' confidence who looks promising while attacking. It was his debut game and his initial nervousness was visible. His lack of awareness could be attributed to these facts but others should have done better. Mertesacker, it appears will take more time to form a partnership with Koscielny but then he let's his man go too easy for my liking.

The game once again revealed that we have compromised on the basics. If Arsene keeps addressing the wrong question, we will never find the correct answer. We need to go back to the whiteboard/training ground and learn the basics of defending again. The most worrying outcome of the game was that we played with almost our full team and were still overcome by a lowly Blackburn unit. The few positives which one could draw are the maiden goals for Gervinho and Arteta and a sublime header from the shy Moroccan. Hope the goal can bring some much required confidence to Chamakh. But in the end it was a pathetic performance from Arsenal and probably a harbinger of the things to come this season.

Funny takeaway

Two Arsenal own goals.

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